Name: Barb Slocum, ME, CCC-SLP
Position: Private-practice speech-language pathologist
Hometown: Binghamton, N.Y.
We all have demands on our time—work, family, friends, chores—but there comes a point for all of us when the demands outweigh the capacity to fulfill them. Barb Slocum, a retired school-based speech-language pathologist, had hit that point. Upon her retirement from 40 years at Chenango Forks School, Slocum continued to work part-time in private practice but also found herself busy helping her aging parents and adult children. In many ways she felt busier than ever, but also less fulfilled and with fewer creative outlets. And as she looked around at her peers, she saw many in similar situations.
So she did what most people wouldn't think to do: She took two years and wrote her first play, "Sandwiched," chronicling a woman's journey to learning how to say "no." In addition to her role as an elementary school SLP, she had spent the last 34 years directing the high school drama club and had helped produce many plays.
"This is my first play, but I had been immersed enough in so many plays that I knew I could do it," she says. "Besides, I realized creativity had gone out of my life and I felt really disconnected. Only a few years into retirement and the hole seemed bigger to me than it had before. I knew I had to do something."
Slocum grew up in the Binghamton, N.Y., area as an only child. As a high school senior looking for a career, she had been following some of the teachers and considering becoming a teacher herself. But then she began watching the school's speech-language pathologist and liked what she saw.
"I liked that they worked with small groups of children and were able to do more, it seemed," she says. "I thought it was a better way to give some of these kids a chance."
She went to the State University of New York at Buffalo and then Penn State University to pursue her career. After a year of working in a clinical setting she returned to Binghamton—to the very school she attended as a child—and began a rich and rewarding career.
"I loved working with the young ones and then later seeing them in the drama club in high school. I learned that what kids seemed to be like when they are 5 could turn out very different when they are 15," she says. "There's a lot of hope."
And she carries that same sense of hope into this next phase of her life as a writer. Although she had dabbled in writing previously, "Sandwiched" is her first stab at creative writing. It took two years from inception to final product. Her hope is that this play about a 60-something learning to navigate the demands of being a woman in a "sandwiched generation" will inspire other women to look at their own situations and make sure they are giving themselves enough time for their own lives, something she says many women don't talk about.
"You never see any stories about what women go through during this part of their lives. All you see is ‘Sex and the City,' and while fantasy is all well and good, that's not what's really happening," she says.
Now, to help tell the real story, Slocum, who is directing the play, is bringing "Sandwiched" to the stage. There will be five performances in Endicott, N.Y., in early June. She has rented performance space at the Endicott Performing Arts Center and has been awarded a grant from the Broome County Arts Council to support production.
"I'm excited and nervous all at the same time," she says. "It's been fun and I hope that it helps get a conversation going."